The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is an unwieldy name for a musical, but everything else about this Elope production went smoothly. Kristen Finlay was the director. The names and faces of the cast were mostly unfamiliar to me, but I haven’t been around the Edmonton musical-theatre scene very long so that isn’t a negative sign.
The story involves six junior-high-school-age children (played by adult actors Mark Sinongeo, Kristin Johnston, Curtis Knecht, Meredith Honda, Nadine Veroba, and John Evans) competing on stage in a spelling bee, their families, and the people managing the spelling bee. For extra fun, four adult audience members were recruited in the lobby beforehand to be extra competitors. The treatment was generally lighthearted, but there was also a consistent message about the difference between young people following their own passions and eccentric interests, and children being pushed or promoted by their families. At the end of the show, each character tells the audience where his or her life has taken him or her since the time of the spelling bee, and each of them has a satisfying outcome.
My favourite character was Mitch (Kate Wylie), a contest support worker with a fairly small role. The most impressive portrayals, In my opinion, were by John Evans (Leaf) and Nadine Veroba (Olive). The choreography (Jake Hastey) was fun to watch and the live music (musical director Sally Hunt and three additional musicians) was catchy, although not sufficiently so for me to be humming it two weeks later.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee continues tonight (Thursday), tomorrow (Friday), and Saturday. Tickets are available at the door and at Tix on the Square.